Like most sweets, licorice is mostly known as a gummy candy that can lead to stomach aches and cavities if too much of it is eaten at once. But recent research has found that legume, the class of plants that licorice comes from, contains chemicals that block plague buildup and fights mouth bacteria called trans-chalcone.
Trans-chalcone is credited with blocking a key enzyme that allows a bacteria, called Streptococcus mutans, from manifesting in mouths. The bacteria metabolizes sugar from foods and drinks and leads to plaque buildup when a mild acid is produced. The researchers realized that they could prevent the bacteria from forming biofilm, a protective layer, by stopping the activity of the enzyme, which is called Sortase A.
The study was led by Dr. Dominic Campopiano and his team of researchers at the University of Edinburgh and published in Chemical Communications, a scientific journal, according to Phys.org. It is also the first to show how trans-chalcone, specifically, prevents the bacteria from forming biofilms.
"We were delighted to observe that trans-chalcone inhibited Sortase A in a test tube and stopped Streptococcus mutans biofilm formation," said Campopiano. "We are expanding our study to include similar natural products and investigate if they can be incorporated into consumer products. This exciting discovery highlights the potential of this class of natural products in food and healthcare technologies."
It is believed that if trans-chalcone and similar natural products were used in oral care products, they could make a difference in oral care. Plaque buildup can cause irritation, inflammation and lead to bacteria buildup and tooth decay. If gone untreated for extended periods of time, it can even lead to teeth needing to be removed and replaced due to health concerns.